William Marbury was born in 1762 and became a successful American politician and businessman. He is famous for his role in the Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison in 1803, and is often remembered as one of John Adam’s “Midnight Judges”.
William Marbury was born on November 7, 1762, in Piscataway, Maryland. His grandfather Francis, who was looking for money, opportunity, and success, decided to start a farm in Charles County, Maryland. Unfortunately, the family’s tobacco plantation business was unsuccessful because of soil problems. However, William Marbury decided to work his way towards a better life.
His political career began as Deputy Tax Collector in Annapolis, Maryland. During the next decade, William Marbury maneuvered his way into the most elite social circles of Maryland and made acquaintances with the richest and the most famous people in the country at that time, including John Adams and Alexander Hamilton.
For most of the 1780s, William Marbury kept his political ideas and beliefs private. During those years, America was operating under the Articles of Confederation, which had numerous problems. When the Founding Fathers of America decided to improve the system, they could not agree on the format.
The federalists said that the United States needed a stronger central government, while the anti-federalists favored states’ rights. This disagreement caused political divisiveness, and in 1791 William Marbury was forced to pick a side, so he chose to be a federalist. His federalist friends offered him many opportunities, including working as an agent of the state of Maryland.
These events helped Marbury become an essential person in Georgetown society, with a vast fortune, a good name, and a spotless reputation. His federalist connections also enabled him to play a crucial role in the banking industry in Washington, DC.
At that time, William Marbury was in the same circle as John Adams, the U.S. President, who was a staunch federalist. In 1801, the presidential election was won by Thomas Jefferson, an anti-federalist. However, John Adams did not want to give up easily, so before leaving his post, he decided to pass the Judiciary Act of 1801.
This act reorganized the federal judiciary and increased the number of judgeship positions in the six Federal Circuits. Also, Adams appointed William Marbury as the Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia, because in the presidential election he had actively campaigned for Adams and against Jefferson.
However, Jefferson refused to accept John Adams’ changes, so Marbury sued James Madison, Jefferson’s secretary of state, in the Supreme Court. In the case Marbury v. Madison, William Marbury asked the Supreme Court to force Jefferson to honor Adams’ appointments, since he wanted to remain Justice of the Peace.
Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that since the appointments were made during the last several days of Adams’ office, and they were not delivered before Thomas Jefferson was sworn in, they were illegal. Thus, the court supported Jefferson’s decision to reduce the number of justices of the peace and repealed the Judiciary Act of 1801.